Priscilla's Friends

A citizen was brought before the sawed-off king (in the comic-strip, The
Wizard of Id), and charged with speeding through a school zone.

Asked why he had sped through the school zone, the citizen replied, 'A
Natural Instinct for Self-Preservation'.


The kindergarten teacher was standing outside her room as the children
entered one morning. Along came little David, deliberately winking his left

"Why, David," said the teacher, "are you winking at me?"

"No, just got my turn signal on," David replied, making a neat left turn
into his room.


Teacher: You aren't paying attention to me. Are you having trouble hearing?

Pupil: No, teacher, I'm having trouble listening!


Teacher: Class, we will have only half a day of school this morning.

Class: Hooray

Teacher: We will have the other half this afternoon!


Teacher: You missed school yesterday didn't you?

Pupil: Not very much!


Nine-year-old Joey was asked by his mother what he had learned in Sunday

Well, Mom, our teacher told us how God sent Moses behind enemy lines on a
rescue mission to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. When he got to the Red
Sea, he had his engineers build a pontoon bridge, and all the people walked
across safely. He used his walkie-talkie to radio headquarters and call in
an air strike. They sent in bombers to blow up the bridge and all the
Israelites were saved.

"Now, Joey, is that REALLY what your teacher taught you?" his mother asked.

Well, no, Mom, but if I told it the way the teacher did, you'd never believe


And the best one:

Teacher's Puppy
On the last day of kindergarten, all the children 
brought presents for their teacher.

The florist's son handed the teacher a gift. She 
shook it, held it up and said, "I bet I know what 
it is - it's some flowers!"

"That's right!" shouted the little boy.

Then the candy store owner's daughter handed 
the teacher a gift.

She held it up, shook it and said. "I bet I know 
what it is - it's a box of

"That's right!" shouted the little girl.

The next gift was from the liquor store owner's son. 
The teacher held it up and saw that it was leaking. 
She touched a drop with her finger and tasted
it. "Is it wine?" she asked.

"No," the boy answered.

The teacher touched another drop to her tongue. "Is it champagne?" she

"No," the boy answered.

Finally, the teacher said, "I give up. What is it?"

The boy replied, "A puppy!"


'If anything is worth doing, it is worth telling someone how to do it well.'

'A teacher affects eternity' (Henry B. Adams, 1838-1918, U.S. Historian)

'A gifted teacher is as rare as a gifted doctor, and makes far less money'
(Author unknown)

'Whoever dares to teach must never cease to learn' (Anonymous)


A teacher's job is quite simple. No, let me rephrase that. A Christian
teacher's job is simply summed up: it is to know themselves (and their areas
of giftedness) well, to know God (and the Scriptures) well, to know the
world (and their subject) well, to know the people they teach (and their
families/networks) well - and to relate one to the others.

Let's start with the world. Did you know that today's world slave trade is
bigger than it was before the abolition of slavery? There are more
child-soldiers, and child-prostitutes than ever before? . Half the people on
earth live on less than two dollars a day. A billion people, less than a
dollar a day. A billion people go to bed hungry every night and a billion
and a half people - one quarter of the people on earth - never get a clean
glass of water. One woman dies every minute in childbirth.

And, nearer home. Sliding test scores and increasing violence on campus have
resulted in a rash of bashing teachers for the problems. Dr. James Dobson
believes educators have been blamed simplistically, and at times unfairly,
for what is a complex social problem: 'Before we leap to blame the educators
for everything that has gone wrong, we need to take another look at the
culture. The teachers and school administrators who guide our children have
been among the most maligned and underappreciated people in our society.
They are an easy target for abuse. They are asked to do a terribly difficult
job, and yet they are criticized almost daily for circumstances beyond their
control. Some of their critics act as though educators are deliberately
failing our kids.

I strongly disagree. We would still be having serious difficulties in our
schools if the professionals did everything right. Why? Because what goes on
in the classroom cannot be separated from the problems occurring in society
at large.

Educators certainly can't be blamed for the condition our kids are in when
they arrive at school each day. It's not the teachers' fault that families
are unraveling and that large numbers of their students have been sexually
and/or physically abused, neglected, and undernourished. They can't keep
kids from watching mindless television or R-rated videos until midnight, or
from using illegal substances or alcohol. In essence, when the culture
begins to crumble from massive social problems that defy solutions, the
schools will also look bad. That's why even though I disagree with many of
the trends in modern education, I sympathize with the dedicated teachers and
principals out there who are trying to do the impossible on behalf of our

Essentially, the task of Christian teachers in this challenging world is to
introduce children and young people to God. Matthew Henry, the great
preacher, was converted at ten. Isaac Watts, the hymn writer, 'accepted
Christ' when nine years old; Jonathan Edwards, the great revival preacher,
dates the beginning of his Christian life from his seventh year. 'When shall
I start teaching my son about the Bible?' a Christian mother asked her new
pastor. 'How old is he?' 'Six,' she replied. 'Hurry home woman, you have
already lost five precious years!' the pastor exclaimed.


One church is 'loaded' with highly committed, talented workers, another is
struggling to keep its doors open: and they're side by side in the same
suburb or town. Why? The secret is often in the way those highly motivated
church-members are taught.

How do we mature in our faith and life? How do we develop a sensitive
Christian conscience, a strong desire to live obediently to the word of God,
a love for Bible study and prayer, a dedicated commitment to ministries of
evangelism, mercy and justice? A discussion of teaching must work backwards
from these questions.

When asked 'What or who were the formative influences in your life?' most
people name a parent or teacher. 'I teach' says US professor of the year
1983, Peter Beidler, 'because I see people grow and change in front of my
eyes. Being a teacher is being present at the creation, when the clay begins
to breathe. Nothing is more exciting than being nearby when the breathing
begins... I teach because, being around people who are beginning to breathe,
I occasionally find myself catching my breath with them.'

Paul and Barnabas majored on teaching (Acts 11:26). The church at Antioch
had a list their teachers (Acts 13:1): does yours? The religion of Israel
was a teaching religion (see eg. Exodus 18:20, Deuteronomy 6:1): the law of
Moses was first a lesson, then a command. Jesus was a rabbi, a teacher (eg
Mark 1:38), and commanded his followers to go into the world and teach all
nations (Matthew 28:19-20). The early Christian churches took seriously the
function of teaching (Acts 13:1, 1 Corinthians 12:28, Ephesians 4:11, 2
Timothy 1:11). Paul later describes the teaching-learning process in this
summary: 'All you have learned by participation in the church's life by
listening by watching my example; put this now into practice' (Philippians

The purpose of Timothy's teaching, Paul says, is to 'arouse the love that
comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and a genuine faith' (1 Timothy
1:5). 'Bible teaching' is therefore much more than a 'jug to mug' approach:
it's meant to produce better-behaved rather than merely better-informed
Christians. Christian leaders should be able, or apt to teach (1 Timothy

If you could choose one verb to describe what the pastor/s do in your
church, would it be 'teaching'? In churches battling to survive, the leaders
spend their time 'oiling the church's machinery' or 'keeping the people
happy' through routine visitation (so-called 'maintenance' ministries). But
where the 'pastor-teachers' (Ephesians 4:11) take their teaching role
seriously, they use many means to encourage their people to mature in the
faith, serve others, and become 'reproducers'. Pastoring and teaching go
together: we don't teach theory, we teach persons. The best teachers love
those they instruct, model what they teach ('truthing it in love' as Paul
puts it in Ephesians 4:15), are enthusiastic, hard-working and systematic in
their preparation, and always assume their students will teach others (2
Timothy 2:2).

Teaching and preaching also belong together. The New Testament writers drew
a distinction between kerygma (proclamation by a herald) and didache
(teaching, instruction). Preaching addresses our unbelief (urging a response
to the word of God), teaching our ignorance (encouraging a learner to
understand the Christian faith). Preaching mainly addresses the will,
teaching the mind. Of course preaching without teaching can be propaganda:
by-passing people's minds to get them to make a commitment they don't fully
understand. And teaching without persuasion can be dry, sterile dogma.

Christian teaching moves through four stages: listening to the Word,
reflecting on the Word, 'uttering' the Word, and 'doing' the Word. Listening
to and reflecting on the Word is best done in uninterrupted silence: so a
sign will go on the door, the telephone-answering machine is switched on,
and we'll create a 'desert'. As one of my pastor-mentors put it: if you take
your teaching ministry seriously you'll take down the sign 'Office' and put
up 'Study'! Uttering is done through word (what we say), deed (what we do) a
nd sign (what God does to corroborate his word and works through ours). So
the teacher's life must be congruent with his or her teaching

Paulo Freire was perhaps the 20th century's most outstanding teacher. In his
Pedagogy of the Oppressed he attacked conventional education for its
'banking' approach: the teacher knows and the student learns; information is
put by the teacher into the head of the student - so the teacher talks and
the student listens; the teacher is the active, the student the passive part
of the process; the teacher has authority and the student must submit.
Freire is not suggesting that students 'do their own thing', but that
teachers and taught become transformed together in the process of
transforming the world. Words are used to understand experience and reality.
The result is 'conscientization' - a recognition of one's dignity and worth
and a movement towards change in society to enhance others' dignity and

Building on this approach, Henri Nouwen {Creative Ministry) draws an
important distinction between 'violent' and 'redemptive' models of teaching.
Teaching as a violent process is competitive (knowledge is property to be
defended rather than a gift to be shared); unilateral (from 'strong teacher'
to 'weak student'); and alienating (teachers belong to a different world to
that of the students). Redemptive teaching is evocative (drawing out others'
potentials); bilateral (teachers and students learn together, and from each
other); and actualizing (envisaging the building of a better world).

The teaching process will be 'dialogical', inductive and deductive,
propositional and relational, doctrinal and life-centred, from the pulpit,
in classes, in small groups, and one-to-one. Every church that's alive has a
bookstall (positioned where people will fall over it!); and an audio and
video-cassette library. Perhaps small-group studies can be related to the
whole church's theme for the week, where the sermon is followed up by
discussion. (That's better than the reverse order: experience shows too many
will come with their exegetical - and critical - minds made up to truly hear
the voice of the Lord in the preaching).

Teaching happens from the pulpit, in preparation for marriage; membership
classes; and training for elders, deacons, home visitors, people-helpers,
Sunday school teachers, etc. Some churches have 'Training Days' or special
mid-week options offering classes on everything ranging from leading singing
to an overview of church history to a Christian reaction to high-school
English texts. Whatever your people want to learn - find a teacher and form
a 'learning exchange'. Adult education classes are proliferating in their
thousands in Western cities and towns these days: why doesn't your church
offer some? And don't forget to run a course on English for newcomers from
other lands, perhaps using a modern translation of the Bible as your text.


A newspaper columnist writes: 'Not one of Australia's 100,000 state-school
teachers, or the 40,000 currently training, was selected because of personal
qualities. Each was chosen as a two-legged set of percentages... What this
means is that we do not care much what happens in our schools... Teachers
should be chosen on grounds of commitment, intelligence, creativity and
empathetic understanding of other persons, rather than merely on the basis
of examination results.' The same can be said of our universities, and,
sometimes our theological halls and churches.

Wise old Socrates used to say that if he could get to the highest point in
Athens he would life up his voice and cry: 'What mean you, fellow citizens,
that scrape every stone to get wealth together and take so little care of
your children to whom one day you must relinquish all?'

'Sunday Schools' - and after-school clubs, special-interest groups for kids
etc. - have their place, but preferably in churches where the adults are
learners too. The most powerful influence on a child is an adult who
obviously loves the Lord. As I once heard Lyle Schaller say 'In every church
meeting there are children taking notes!'

We desperately need teachers who are exciting, interesting and creative.
Pedagogy is more of an art than a science. If we are forced to make a
choice, give me a shallow teacher who teaches with enthusiasm and zest, over
another who may be scholarly but boring! Teachers of children should
understand the kids' home situations and interests. Good teachers will
control by presence rather than by threats; they will work hard to prepare
an interesting lesson; they're able to adapt themselves to different
situations (as when a kid is angry or grieving or curious); they will do
interesting things with their class outside lesson-time; and they will have
a sense of humour. They will vary their approach (videos, team-teaching,
field trips etc). Sunday school teachers should not be chosen because
they've outgrown the children's classes, or because there's nothing much
else in the church for them to do. It would be better to have fewer teachers
than poor, untrained ones. Teachers of children are 'in loco parentis': a
high responsibility. A university professor gave up his work among young
adults to teach boys. When asked for a reason he said: 'If you were to write
your name on brick so that it would remain, would you write it before or
after it was baked?'

Above all, 'example is better than precept'. One of Australia's greatest
teachers, Alastair Mackerras, formerly principal of Sydney Grammar School,
used to pick up rubbish in the school-yard. (He knew all his 1200 students
by name; and taught for three years in classrooms at Eton in England and St.
Ignatius in Sydney after his retirement!).


Many Christians unfortunately view Sunday School as 'nice for the kids'.
This reminds me of a rabbi's lament about 'pediatric Judaism' in his
religion: the view that training stops when the child has received his Bar
Mitzvah. Indeed the Jewish Talmud says that in the world to come we'll be
asked three questions: 'Did you buy and sell in good faith?' 'Did you have a
set time for study? Did you raise a family?' Let us encourage everyone in
the church to be a student, a learner, a grower, forever.

Children and youth are important, but it's useful to recall Jesus didn't
start a youth movement. The church was started by adults; it was organised
by adults; and throughout the world the church is growing to the extent that
it is reaching out to adults. When heads of families make a commitment to
Christ, you're more likely to win the whole family.

Adults aren't all the same. There is a burgeoning literature now seeking to
map adult life-cycles. John Claypool writes: 'If adolescence is the most
intense stage along the way, I would say adulthood is the most demanding.
Not only is it long, it also involves so many different challenges
simultaneously.' He then notes Gail Sheehy's phrase 'concomitant growth':
adults grow concurrently in three areas: vocation, relationships with one's
'significant others' and one's own unique selfhood.

The first adult stage involves leaving the family (ages 16-22), where the
young adult begins to leave youthful fantasies behind, establishes
independence from the family, and establishes new friendships. Then there's
a stage of reaching out towards others (23-28), with a search for personal
identity with the help of an older 'mentor', an ability to develop intimacy,
a time for togetherness in marriage and a devotion to mastering the world.
Aged 29-34 the adult searches for stability: life looks more painful and
difficult, so this is a time of intense questioning and reappraisal of
life's values, and the setting of long-range goals. The 'mid-life crisis'
period begins about 35-37: it's a time to face reality and one's mortality,
one's marriage, personal priorities and values are reassessed. The way out
of this turbulent stage, says Erikson is through 'generativity' - nurturing,
teaching and serving others. Life settles down in the late 40's through
50's. Money is less important; old values and family relationships reassume
importance. Then, after the late 50's the 'mellowing' stage, with adjustment
to the ageing process, thoughts about the inevitable death of spouse, a
tendency to avoid emotion-laden issues, and (at last!) parents aren't blamed
for personal problems.

Adults, like young people, want to be committed to something. They must be
encouraged not to lose touch with their younger idealism. And they will make
incredible sacrifices to grow towards maturity and ministry to others. I
heard today of a Presbyterian church in Houston that conducts a Bible class
for men at 6 am Tuesday mornings, and is well attended by business and
professional men.

The great danger for adults, as Erik Erikson and James Fowler have pointed
out is that they become permanently bogged down in a kind of restless social
activism while the soul remains fixed in a sort of adolescent posture. The
adult should move into middle years sufficiently full of spiritual and
practical riches to endow others with the fruits of a reflective as well as
actively well-spent life. They can then move towards the 'shadow-years' with
the assurance that they have not squandered the gifts of God nor left them
to rot away unused.

Back to teachers 'being the best'. These days teachers in our schools have
to know how to operate computers, and 'surf the 'Net'. They have to be au
fait with ethical issues - like where and when to report cases of child
sexual abuse. Bond University's Professor John Wade (Queensland, Australia),
who won an award for excellence in University lecturing says he teaches with
three key principles: 1. Have enough preparation, resources and activities;
2. Steal ideas from other good teachers to improve your own teaching skills;
3. Employ multiple activities - small group work, visuals, discussion,
feedback, role-play etc.

And a note about schools and home. I believe basic knowledge and skills like
sex education, health education and driver education belong more to the
home/community than to schools.

And never forget: every teacher teaches his or her future lawyers, doctors,
and politicians!


Ten Tips for Using Rewards

1. Keep the reward system simple. A complicated behavior system is difficult
and time consuming to manage.

2. Make the reward meaningful to your students. Opportunities for student
choice can be particularly effective.

3. Use rewards to get students off to a good start with a specific behavior.

4. Focus on one behavior at a time, and have your students help select it.

5. Reward students for showing responsibility. Shift the emphasis of the
classroom management system from the teacher to the students.

6. Begin by rewarding students often, and then gradually reduce the rewards
and maintain expectations.

7. Give consistent rewards for academic achievement.

8. Raise the expectations that must be met for the rewards as the students

9. Think in the short term. A system that is no longer needed after a few
weeks has done its job!

10. Modify behavior systems for students with extreme problems. Frequent
smaller rewards given to these students may have more benefit.

( )


Some movies about teachers: Dead Poets' Society, Mr. Holland's Opus, To Sir
With Love, Stand and Deliver, Lean on Me, Teacher's Pet



1. 'What we learn with pleasure we never forget' (Charles Alfred Mercier).
How can that be translated into teaching practice in a classroom or Sunday

2. Teaching is not so much about imparting information, but rather
'formation' into Christ, leading to 'transformation'. Talk about that.

3. Swap ideas about dealing with tough students. (Remember the teachers'
maxim: 'To forgive 70x7 is only to forgive twice a day for the whole school
year.' Did you hear about the School Principal who said to a harried
second-grade teacher: 'Miss Whitney, you simply cannot send thank-you notes
to your pupils when they stay home because of illness.')

4. What's the 'best advice' for a teacher you've heard? (Here's one
response: 'Have as many rewards as sanctions. Talk an offender up rather
than down, so that s/he feels that bad conduct is beneath him/her. Keep your
voice low and express controlled anger. Let them know you'll never give up
on them.')

5. Talk about incidents like the shootings at Columbine High School. How do
schools sometimes make young people angry enough to shoot and throw bombs,
if they can get them?

6. It has been estimated that 80 percent of classroom teachers who quit
their jobs after the first year do so because of an inability to maintain
discipline in their classroom. Why is that? What ideas do you have on this
important subject. (Like the time-worn advice 'Don't smile until

7. Share experiences about 'the most unforgettable teacher I ever had'.

8. 'Praising kids too much is likely to make them into "approval junkies'.'
What do you think of that?

9. Talk about the pros and cons of sending kids to a Christian vs a public
school. Or teaching in either institution.

10. Discuss the issue of 'pursuing excellence' whilst affirming children
across the whole range of abilities and giftedness. Is there any room for
competition in a Christian educational setting?

11. Is there a 'Christian' approach to punishment / discipline? Talk about
corporal punishment vs. time-out vs deprivation of privileges etc.

12. 'Some parts of the Bible are R-rated and should not be introduced to
younger children.' How should the Bible be taught appropriately to children
of varying ages?

13. Discuss how you teach a child to pray.

14. 'Hurt people hurt people.' Is that too simplistic an explanation for
bullying? How should bullies be helped/treated?

15. What are the best approaches to sex education?

16. Forty years ago most teenagers did not discuss homosexuality. Today most
teenagers can name a homosexual. Discuss the changes which have occurred in
the area of sexual orientation - and in many other ways - in our culture
over the last generation, and how to help children in a complex age.

17. If you were to draw up a code of ethics for Christian teachers, what
might such a document contain?

Rowland Croucher

February 2002.

rowland @ johnmarkministries . org
Email Jan and Rowland